The Mechanics of Eating for Straight Teeth: Part II

1 May

In my last post, I discussed the mechanics of breastfeeding and how the oral actions that take place when a baby breastfeeds stimulate proper growth and development of the palate, jaw and oral musculature giving baby a better chance at straight teeth in the future.  Now we’ll move on to the introduction of solid foods for the infant and eating into the toddler years.

Current recommendations suggest waiting until your baby is at least 6 months old before adding solid foods, but you may even wait until 7-8 months old if your baby is not yet showing much interest in solid food.  If you’re a parent, what first foods were you told to begin feeding your infant?  You probably heard the most common recommendation: rice cereal.  Unfortunately, rice cereal is pretty devoid of nutrition and provides no oral stimulation to eat.  (But wait, rice cereal is fortified with iron that my baby needs! I’ll address this later…)  After that, you were likely told to offer your baby all kinds of mashed and pureed foods like sweet potatoes, squash, bananas and avocado, or that you could purchase jarred baby foods.  Moving into the toddler years, I see a lot of toddlers filling up on Cheerios or other cereals, graham crackers, Goldfish crackers, toddler cookies and sometimes yogurt, ya know…”kid food”.  Unfortunately again, after the age of two, most parents have been told to move to low-fat or non-fat dairy products, so parents buy convenient yogurt cups for their kids, often in fruity flavors or with fruit-on-the-bottom (which should really be called fruit-syrup-on-the-bottom).  As I discussed in this post, low-fat/non-fat dairy is higher in sugar.  Add that to all those cereals and crackers toddlers are eating, (carbohydrates, which are converted to sugar in the body when eaten), and it’s easy to see that our toddlers are running on sugar!  Toddlers are lacking the nutrients they need for proper growth and all this sugar is putting them on the insulin roller coaster all day long.  And what happens when we are carbohydrate/sugar dependent and our insulin crashes?  We get hungry and cranky!  Hmmm…could this be the source of some of those toddler tantrums and meltdowns???

So, what and how should we be feeding our infants and toddlers?  First off, opt for REAL FOOD whenever you can.  Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time believing that I will need to feed my infant rice cereal…a product that comes in a box, was made in a factory and has synthetic vitamins and minerals that were made in a lab added to it to make it “nutritious”.  I agree that sweet potatoes, squashes, bananas and avocadoes are great options for infants getting started on solid foods.  Feel free to add a little pastured butter or coconut oil to those mashed sweet potatoes and squashes to up the nutrient level and absorption of those nutrients.  The added fat will also fill up baby more.  As for bananas, try giving your baby half the banana to hold and eat rather than mashing.  Many babies at 6 months of age, or definitely by 7-8 months of age, can hold food and feed themselves, so let them.  Let baby gnaw on the banana.  This gnawing action, along with the action of them opening wide to put the banana in their mouth, will stimulate those oral muscles for proper growth and development.  You can do the same with avocado.  Many parents worry about choking risk doing this, but a baby will gnaw at a banana or chunk of avocado and actually be mashing it up themselves; they run a greater risk of choking with small, cut-up pieces of food that they could inhale and get lodged in their esophagus.

But what about iron?  Great choices to include in baby’s first foods that are iron-rich are egg yolks and liver.  For a long time, parents have been advised to avoid feeding babies eggs until after age 1 to prevent allergies, however, it is typically the egg white that is the allergenic part of the egg.  The solution?  Hard boil eggs, remove the white and just give baby the yolk.  Of course, monitor your baby for any adverse reactions, just like you would with any new food you introduce, and if baby has a reaction, wait a couple months and try the food again to see if baby still has a reaction.  Liver is another great choice for babies.  The best way to serve it to infants just starting out on solid foods is to make liver pate.  Scoop some on a plate or right onto the tray of their high chair and let them pick up bits of it and feed themselves.  As they get a couple months older, they can eat cooked liver, fish such as halibut and salmon which cook up very soft and easy for baby to chew and “gum”.  Keep adding new foods for baby to try as their palates develop and as they get more teeth.

As for toddlers, this will be a natural progression if you have allowed your baby to explore different foods and feed himself/herself rather than spoon-feeding your baby all those mashed and pureed foods.  Often, we think we need to prepare everything for our infants and toddlers, but to ensure they are getting enough oral-mechanical stimulation for proper growth and development, we can really do less.  For example, let’s take an apple, which could be served in several different ways:


Whole apple


Cut apple pieces

Cut apple pieces




Most parents feed their toddlers and young children cut-up pieces of apple or applesauce, but to best stimulate proper oral growth, don’t be afraid to give your toddler the whole apple…or a pear, cucumber, tomato, etc.  In fact, many kids prefer this over cut-up food.  This is how children did it for thousands of years before there were knives, blenders, food processors, etc.  Hmmm…braces and Invisalign didn’t exist back then either…

For more on this topic from my “go-to” biomechanist, Katy Bowman, head over to her blog for a quick read on how and why she is doing this with her kiddos!

Here are a couple other great resources too:

The Right Way to Feed Babies – The Healthy Home Economist

Super Nutrition for Babies: The Right Way to Feed Your Baby for Optimal Health

And if you’re new to my blog and haven’t read how this all starts, check out the articles below!

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part I

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part II


A Big Announcement! & The Mechanics of Eating for Straight Teeth: Part I

23 Mar
cat in bag

Jersey the cat

So, first up, an announcement!  I’m letting the cat out of the bag… The Paleo Hygienist is pregnant!  This is our first little one and I’m currently 7 1/2 months along.  We’re expecting in early-mid May 2014!  So if the blog goes extremely quiet this Summer, you’ll know why :)

If you’ve been reading my blog over the past year or so, you may have noticed that many of my articles discuss how paleo/primitive nutrition and specific nutrients (the fat-soluble vitamins A, D & K2) are vital to proper development of humans, and that to produce an optimally developed child, mindful nutrition matters for BOTH parents before conception, for the mother during pregnancy, and continuing on into childhood with the nutrition the child receives.  I began researching and reading all of this information about a year before my husband and I were planning to get pregnant, so it really resonated with me.  I thought the information was so important that I wanted to help spread the word any way I could…thus my blog was born!

My absolute favorite article I’ve written to date was my 2-part series on the role of nutrition on jaw/palate/facial development and how we could increase the chances of straight teeth (and avoiding braces) in our children.

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part I

Can What You Eat Now Keep Your Future Kids Out of Braces: Part II

I guess we could call this post “Part III”  because while proper pre-conception and prenatal nutrition lay the foundation for our children to have straight teeth, there is another important factor…mechanical stimulation.

Pregnant women read everything!  And one of the biggest topics we read about is breastfeeding.  Most articles and books focus on the nutrition benefits of breastfeeding our babies, but did you know that the mechanics of breastfeeding also play an important role in jaw, palate and facial formation of our children which, along with nutrition, positively impact our children’s chances of having straight teeth?!  And seriously…does it get any more Paleo than breastfeeding?!

Our food provides us with nutrition, but it does serve another purpose, and that comes in HOW we obtain this nutrition, or in simpler terms: HOW WE EAT.  Food provides us with the necessary mechanical stimulation of our jaw, palate, ligaments, and muscles to develop properly thus giving us enough room in our dental arch for all of our teeth to align correctly.  Our primitive ancestors had no need for orthodontists and braces or oral surgeons to remove impacted wisdom teeth; today nearly every teenager visits at least one of these doctors.


Photo credit: Better Breastfeeding, InJoy Productions, Inc. 2011

For an infant, breastfeeding provides optimal oral mechanical stimulation compared to a bottle.  A baby “sucks” on a bottle, however, when a baby breastfeeds with a proper latch on the breast something much different happens. For anyone that has ever read a breastfeeding book, taken a breastfeeding class or received instruction from a lactation consultant, you know that a deep latch is best rather than a shallow latch where the baby is sucking on the nipple, which can be quite painful for mom!  With a deep latch, the baby opens wide and takes in enough breast so that it is pressing up against his/her palate.  The baby does not merely “suck” the milk out, but instead uses his/her tongue in a curved U-shape on the breast and in a wave-like motion “milks” the breast to receive milk.  This very rhythmic action of the tongue “milking” the breast presses on the palate, and the subsequent swallowing together play a role in proper stimulation and development of the dental arches, palate, jaw and muscles.

When we compare bottle-feeding to breastfeeding it is easy to see that the nipple on a bottle is a standard shape and size and does not fill or conform to baby’s palate, and therefore does not stimulate any widening of the palate to ensure room for all the teeth in the future.  Greater suction forces are required during bottle-feeding than breastfeeding.  This forceful action causes the cheeks to draw in, putting pressure on the gums and teeth, affecting the position of the teeth.  As baby grows, the breast continues to conform to the baby’s mouth, whereas the bottle nipple remains constant and does not adapt to the growing mouth of a growing child.

So great, you’re breastfeeding, but there are still so many factors and questions to consider…  How often should you breastfeed?  On demand for a few minutes at each feeding?  Every few hours with feedings lasting 20-30 minutes?  How long should you breastfeed?  6 months?  1 year?  Up to age 2?  Up to age 4 or 5?  The truth is, we don’t really know.  If we think of the mechanical stimulation received by breastfeeding and compare that to exercise, it’s understandable that human development and adaptation will be different between one human that sits at a desk all day and hits the gym for 1 hour vs. the human that may not necessarily “workout” by society’s current definition, but rather incorporates movement in small doses throughout their day by limiting sitting, walking, squatting to pick up objects, etc.  If we look at Hunter-Gatherer populations, they followed a more on-demand breastfeeding pattern feeding for a few minutes several times per hour as the child dictated, and while other foods entered the child’s diet, breastfeeding was still part of their nutrition until 4-5 years of age.  Of course, for Hunter-Gatherer populations, food was much more scarce than it is for us today, so breastfeeding for many years helped ensure survival of their children.  My advice…  do what works for you, your baby and your family.  Not everyone can breastfeed on demand, and not even every woman has success with breastfeeding and must bottle-feed.  Some mothers want to breastfeed their children beyond 1 year, but the child becomes uninterested and self-weens.  Again I say, do what works for you, your baby and your family.  And when it comes time to start introducing solid foods, there are factors to consider there as well, but that’s for my next post… Stay tuned!

Want more info?  Check out these great sources:

The Influence of Breastfeeding on the Oral Cavity: A Commentary

Hunter-Gatherer Childhoods: Evolutionary, Developmental & Cultural Perspectives

Finally! A Natural Toothpaste I LOVE!

6 Feb

With all the extra additives and chemicals in our world, many people are reducing their exposure by opting for more natural health and beauty products.  I’ve been swapping out beauty products and choosing shampoos, conditioners and soaps that are paraben-free or free of SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate).  The shampoo/conditioner I buy even says it’s gluten-free!  Man, that stuff is everywhere!  But one product I’ve had trouble replacing with a more natural alternative is toothpaste.  I’ve tried several brands on the market today that you can find in health food stores, but I kept running into the same problems; I hated the taste, or it left a funky aftertaste, or it just didn’t leave my mouth feeling clean and fresh.

doTERRA On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste

doTERRA On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste

Well, I recently had the chance to try doTerra’s On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste…and I LOVED IT!!!  It’s paraben-free, SLS-free and fluoride-free for those that want that too!  But more importantly…I LOVE THE TASTE!  The flavor is a light and refreshing cinnamon-clove.  The best way I can describe it is you know that cinnamon clove tea you’ll find around the holidays?  Sometimes little specialty Christmas stores will have some brewed and serve it to customers.  It reminds me of that!  And for those of you (like my husband and I) that have issues with gum irritation from cinnamon toothpastes, you need not worry.  We have had no problems with gum irritation with this toothpaste, whereas in the past using a conventional cinnamon toothpaste for 2 days made my gums red and feeling raw/sore.

doTerra is an essential oil company.  This toothpaste is not found in stores but you can order it from your doTERRA rep…and if you don’t have a doTERRA rep, you can order it from mine here.

doTERRA On Guard Natural Whitening Toothpaste ingredients: Glycerin, Water, Hydrated Silica, Hydroxyapatite, Xylitol, Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose Gum, Mentha piperita (Peppermint) Essential Oil, Citrus sinensis (Wild Orange) Essential Oil, Eugenia caryophyllata (Clovebud) Essential Oil, Cinnamomum zeylancum (Cinnamon Bark) Essential Oil, Eucalyptus radiate (Eucalyptus) Essential Oil, Rosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary) Essential Oil, Stevia rebaudiana (Stevia) Extract, Gualtheria procumbens (Wintergreen) Essential Oil, Commiphora myrrha (Myrrh) Essential Oil, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Carrageenen, Titanium Dioxide.

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Paleo Principles for Optimal Oral Health and Beyond.

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